Posted on Wednesday 23rd June, 2021

In a recent post, we took at closer look at some of the most famous Paralympians of all time. These Paralympians are the ones who have inspired others to get into Para sport and in most cases, they are also some of the most successful Paralympians of all time.  

Whether it’s the summer or winter Paralympic Games, there have been some stand out athletes over the past 60 years since the start of the Paralympic Games in 1960. These Para athletes are all individuals striving to win their events, however, they are also there to proudly represent their country.  

For many athletes, there is no higher honour than representing your country at the Paralympic Games, Olympic Games, World Championships, or other major global event and whilst individual success is celebrated, we also wanted to take a closer look at the most successful countries at both the summer and winter Paralympic Games. 

Which country has won the most medals at the summer Paralympics? 

The first official summer Paralympic Games were held in Rome in 1960 and including those Paralympics, there has been a total of 15 summer Paralympics up to and including Rio 2016. New Zealand has participated in 13 of those 15 Paralympics, however the medal table is dominated by countries that have participated in all 15 with the exception of Canada (13) and China (9). 

Below is the medal table showing the top ten countries in terms of medals won at the summer Paralympic Games: 

Rank Country Number of Games Gold Medals Silver Medals Bronze Medals Total Medals 
United States (USA) 15 772 700 703 2,175 
Great Britain (GBR) 15 626 584 579 1,789 
Germany (GER) 15 748 491 465 1,443 
Australia (AUS) 15 368 393 364 1,125 
Canada (CAN) 13 393 329 337 1,059 
China (CHN) 442 340 251 1,033 
France (FRA) 15 311 320 318 949 
Netherlands (NED) 15 264 233 218 714 
Spain (ESP) 12 212 220 229 661 
10 Sweden (SWE) 15 235 227 175 637 
28 New Zealand (NZL) 13 74 57 59 190 

As we can see, the United States leads the way when it comes to the number of medals won at the summer Paralympic Games with a total of 2,175 medals – a phenomenal haul. The team has averaged 145 medals per summer Paralympic Gamess competed. The last time out in Rio, the USA picked up 115 medals in total, finishing fourth in the overall medal table behind China, Great Britain and the Ukraine. 

China is the biggest threat to the USA’s dominance. Despite only competing in nine summer Paralympic Games to date, they have already collected an impressive 1,033 medals, although that average of 114 medals per Paralympics still puts them some way behind the USA. In Rio, the Chinese team collected a total of 237 medals, including 107 golds, so watch this space as they try and chase down the USA in terms of the most successful teams at the summer Paralympics.  

The New Zealand Paralympic Team currently sits in 28th place in the overall medal table for summer Paralympics with a total of 190 medals from their 13 Paralympic Games to date. They will, of course, be hoping to add to that total at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games which will start in August 2021, delayed by a year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and have Belgium and Ireland in their sites – the two teams sitting directly above them in the table. 

Which country has won the most medals at the winter Paralympics? 

The first winter Paralympics were held in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, in 1976, 16 years after the first summer Paralympic Games. Since then, there has been a total of 12 winter Paralympic Games, up to and including the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympics in South Korea. New Zealand has participated in 11 of those winter Paralympic Games, making their debut in Geilo in 1980.  

Like the summer Paralympic Games, the medal table is dominated by teams that have participated in every one of the Paralympic Games since 1976 with the exception of Russia (6) and the Ukraine (6). 

Below is the medal table showing the top ten countries in terms of medals won at the winter Paralympic Games: 

Rank Country Number of Games Gold Medals Silver Medals Bronze Medals Total Medals 
Germany (GER) 12 137 121 106 364 
Austria (AUT) 12 104 115 113 332 
Norway (NOR) 12 136 106 85 327 
United States (USA) 12 110 119 85 313 
Russia (RUS) 84 88 61 233 
Finland (FIN) 12 77 48 61 182 
France (FRA) 12 59 55 57 171 
Canada (CAN) 12 51 47 65 163 
Switzerland (SUI) 12 53 55 48 156 
10 Ukraine (UKR) 27 41 44 112 
20 New Zealand (NZL) 11 16 31 

As we can see from the table above, Germany are the leading country in terms of total medals won at the winter Paralympic Games with a total of 365 medals across 12 events. They also lead the way when it comes to gold medals, picking up 137 gold medals, one ahead of Norway who sit in third place in the overall medal table. With a total of 354 medals, Germany average 30 medals per Paralympic Games and showcases the fact that there are far fewer events at the winter Paralympics compared to the summer Paralympic Games. 

The last time out at PyeongChang, South Korea, Germany finished fifth in the overall medal table, picking up 19 medals. The USA led the way with a total of 36 medals, including 18 golds. Russian Para athletes, along with their able-bodied counterparts, have been banned from competing at either the summer or winter Paralympic Games since 2016 due to doping accusations. Athletes from Russia who were deemed to be clean were allowed to participate as Neutral Paralympic Athletes and these athletes finished second in the overall medal table, picking up 24 medals at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. 

The New Zealand Paralympic Team currently sits in 20th place in the overall medal table with a total of 31 medals from the 11 Paralympic Games they have competed in. The team does have a strong record when it comes to gold medals, with 16 of their 30 medals being gold. Their gold medal haul puts team New Zealand 13 in the overall medal table. The next winter Paralympics will be held in Beijing in 2022 and the New Zealand Paralympic Team will be hoping to close the gap on Australia and Great Britain who sit just above them in the medal table with 34 medals each.  

Which country has won the most medals combined at the summer and winter Paralympics? 

Finally, let’s take a closer look at how the overall medal table looks when we combine the summer and winter medal counts. Obviously, the table is heavily dominated by those top countries at the summer Paralympic Games as there are far more events at the summer Paralympic Games, however, there are some small movements in the top ten which you can see in the table below: 

Rank Country Number of Games Gold Medals Silver Medals Bronze Medals Total Medals 
United States (USA) 27 847 778 742 2,367 
Great Britain (GBR) 27 628 597 598 1,823 
Germany (GER) 27 624 612 571 1,807 
Canada (CAN) 25 444 376 402 1,222 
Australia (AUS) 26 380 399 380 1,159 
France (FRA) 27 370 375 365 1,120 
China (CHN) 14 443 340 251 1,034 
Sweden (SWE) 27 261 260 216 737 
Netherlands (NED) 23 267 237 221 725 
10 Spain (ESP) 22 227 233 233 684 
28 New Zealand (NZL) 24 90 63 68 221 

As we can see from the table above, the USA lead the way when it comes to the total number of combined medals from the summer and winter Paralympic Games, winning a total of 2,367 medals including 847 gold medals. They are currently 544 medals ahead of their nearest rival, Great Britain and they average 88 medals across the 27 summer and winter Paralympic Games in which they have participated. 

As with the summer Paralympic Games, China may well be the country that eventually challenges the USA for overall medal dominance at the Paralympics. Having only competed at 14 of the 27 Paralympic Games, China has already amassed over 1,000 medals, averaging 74 medals per Paralympic Games competed in which puts them ahead of second placed Great Britain when it comes to the average number of medals awarded at a Paralympic Games in which they have participated. When it comes to gold medals, China jumps from seventh place to fifth place with a total of 443 gold medals, just one behind fourth placed Canada. 

New Zealand currently sits in 28th position in the overall combined medal table with a total of 221 medals across the summer and winter Paralympics at which they have competed. In terms of overall gold medals, the New Zealand Paralympic Team jumps up two places ahead of Ireland and Belgium with a total of 90 gold medals, just two behind 25th placed Brazil.